Serves: 8 to 12
To demonstrate the flexibility of this recipe, test cook Melody Elliott-Koontz substituted fresh asparagus for some of the okra and added some sliced hot sausage for a spring variation of this classic gumbo from "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking" (Gibbs Smith, $45, 722 pages) by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart.
8 tablespoons butter, divided
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
8 cups shrimp stock, fish stock, broth or water
5 fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped, or 1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes with juice, chopped
2 pounds okra, fresh or frozen, sliced and divided
2 pounds fresh fish, cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces
2 pounds raw shrimp, shells removed
1 pint shucked raw oysters
1 pound crabmeat, picked over to remove any shells
Freshly ground black pepper
Hot sauce, optional
Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a large Dutch oven. Add the flour and stir until a smooth paste forms, then continue cooking until it is a rich, nutty brown, but not burned, making a dark roux.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining butter in a small sauté pan. Add the onion and cook until lightly colored. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add to the brown roux. Stir in the stock or water, tomatoes and half the okra. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat and cook slowly for 30 minutes, covered. Remove the lid.
Fifteen minutes before serving, bring back to a boil and add the remaining okra and the fish. Cook a couple of minutes. Add the shrimp and oysters, and cook just until the shrimp turn pink and the edges of the oysters begin to curl.
Divide the crabmeat among the bowls. Taste the gumbo and season to taste with salt, black pepper and hot sauce as desired. Ladle onto the crabmeat and serve hot.
Variation: Add chopped ham to the mixture. Add Creole spices and ground hot red pepper to taste.